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National Telephone Day

The history of the telephone

Alexander Graham Bell, most famously known for the invention of the telephone, patented the telephone on March 7, 1876. Though, this is controversial as Elisha Gray also submitted a patent on the same day and Antonio Meucci may have actually been the first inventor. 

Why do we answer with “hello?”

The standard greeting to answer the phone is a simple “hello” like we say to greet each other in person. This idea came about from the famous inventor Thomas Edison, while the patenter, Alexander Graham Bell, preferred “ahoy.” “Ahoy” is a greeting we may associate with boats, however, it has been around as a greeting for over 100 years longer than “hello.” Phone books included “hello” as the greeting and it stuck. So much so that “Hello, World!” became one of the first, if not the first, program written by new programmers. And of course, we also greet each other with “hello” in person. 

What’s the problem with new phones?

Every year people anticipate a new smartphone. They wait for announcements, then they wait for the arrival. Year after year, working phones get thrown out for an upgraded version with a better camera, bigger screen, and new operating system. And it’s a problem. The waste that we produce from phones is polluting our environment. From degrading materials, filling landfills, and waste in our natural environment, these phones (and other gadgets) are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

And it takes even more resources to make the new phones. Phones are filled with precious metals that must be mined, requiring clearing land, water use, transportation, processing, packaging, shipping, and everything else it takes to source materials and deliver the final product into your hands. This a resource-intensive and environmentally degradative process that we go through every year for a slightly better camera or slightly larger screen. 

With many phones, it’s difficult to replace parts, like a new battery, requiring you to get an entirely new phone. So no, it’s not entirely your fault. 

Why do I have a drawer full of useless chargers and bricks?

Junk drawers seem to fill up with more and more chargers every year. From charging cables that haven’t been needed in years to bricks that charge slower than the new ones, we have a cable problem. Although, Apple stopped including those bricks with phones, claiming to reduce packaging which wouldn’t be an issue if they didn’t change the type of charger they used so much.

That is the reason that the European Union (EU) implemented a law that requires new smartphones, tablets, cameras, and other gadgets to have a USB-C port! So it might actually reduce waste in the EU in which case you can clear out your junk drawer.

How much energy does it take to charge my phone?

It turns out, globally, smartphone charging is responsible for 8,050,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is the same as 1,758,000 gasoline-powered cars on the road. That’s a lot of energy! What can you do? If you can, unplug your phone and the charger from the socket when your phone is completely charged, which takes about 2 hours) to help reduce energy use. Additionally, try and charge your phone when the energy grid has the most renewable energy, typically during the day and not at peak usage hours such as in the morning around 6-10am and in the evenings around 4-8pm. During peak times, the demand is much higher when people wake up and turn on appliances, make breakfast, and get ready for the day; and at night when people arrive home, watch TV, and make dinner. Higher demand means more energy will be coming from non renewable sources like natural-gas power plants. Additionally, renewable energy like solar is not available at night.    

What can I do?

Donate your used phone, take it to e-waste recycling facilities, and try to use it for as long as possible! Do we need a new phone every year? Or every 2 years? Probably not. From now on it seems like USB-C will be the prevailing charging cable type, so maybe hold onto those cables. But you probably don’t need the iPhone 4 cable.

Check out when and where to recycle e-waste in Deschutes County!